Plastic Codes

Avoiding Hormone Disrupters

Recycling codes stamped on some plastics may help identify unhealthy chemicals, but keep in mind, pioneer and leading BPA researcher, Dr Fred Vom Saal at Missouri University, asserts:

"We cannot state there is any safe plastic".

Worst Plastics

  • Type 3: Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
    • Products
      • Shampoo bottles, food packaging, wire insulator, shower curtains, medical tubing and bags, vinyl upholstery, floor tiles, pipes, Reynolds Wrap and cling wrap for most grocery stores
        • Can pass from packaging into food, water, or cosmetics
        • Can be breathed in from curtains or pipes
    • Contain Phthalates
      • Phthalate give plastic its resilience and flexibility
    • Considered most harmful plastic
  • Type 6: Polystyrene
    • One of the most widely used plastics
    • Two forms of polystyrene: inflated and non-inflated
        • Styrofoam®, a Dow Chemical Company trademarked product
        • meat trays, egg cartons
        • plastic utensils, some takeout containers, cups, bowls, plates
        • plastic models, packaging for shipping.
        • flame retardants
    • May leak styrene, especially when heated
    • Styrene is classified as a possible human carcinogen by the EPA and by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
    • Polystyrene is not biodegradable
  • Type 7 Polycarbonate (PC), among other plastics
    • Polycarbonates
      • Reusable water bottles, dental sealants, inner lining of food cans
      • Have been used in baby bottles and "sippy" cups for kids
    • Can contain BPA which can leach into food and water

Possibly Better Plastics

  • Type 1: Polyethylene Terephtalate (PET or PETE)
    • Disposable containers for most bottled water, soft drinks, and juice, mouthwash, ketchup, peanut butter, jelly, etc.
    • Avoid reusing #1 bottles and jars because the plastic is porous
      • containers absorb flavors and bacteria that can't be cleaned out
  • Type 2: High Density Polyethylene (HDPE)
    • Cloudy or opaque plastic
    • Milk, water, and juice jugs
    • Bottles for shampoo and detergent
    • Cereal-box liners
    • Additives have not been tested
  • Type 4: Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE)
    • Cling wraps, food storage bags, garbage bags, and grocery bags
    • Squeeze bottles
    • Coatings for milk cartons and hot-beverage cups
    • Burden to environment
  • Type 5: Polypropylene (PP)
    • Cloudy or opaque plastic
    • Most Rubbermaid container, cloudy plastic baby bottles, deli soup containers
    • Containers for yogurt, margarine, ketchup and syrup
    • Additive have not been tested
  • Bio-based Polymers (Biodegradable polyester)
    • Derived from renewable resources, such as corn, potatoes, sugar cane.
    • Can be composted in a municipal composter or in a backyard compost pile
    • Healthiest and most eco-friendly choice.


  • Food storage
    • Parchment or waxed paper
    • Glass and ceramic food storage containers
  • On the go
    • Paper plates, bowls, and cups made from sugar cane
    • Bio-plastic utensils made from plant starch
    • Stainless steel insulated storage container for hot foods
    • Stainless steel water bottles or Ball brand canning jar with lid


Codes of Concern, Time Magazine (April 1, 2010)

Plastic Planet, Documentary (2009). time stamps 1:10:10 & 1:18:20

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